the hill-FBI releases interviews with Clinton aides–8.48f,b36.43
The FBI on Friday afternoon released almost 200 pages of summaries of interviews done during its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, including those with top aides Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan. The interview for Justin Cooper, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, is also included. Cooper registered the original clintonemail.com domain. The documents contain several previously unknown details.
In the interview with Abedin, the longtime Clinton aide was surprised that she was shown an exchange between President Obama and Clinton.
Abedin was shown an email chain dated June 28, 2012, with the subject “Re: Congratulations!” from a sender she did not recognize, according to the FBI’s notes. “Once informed that the sender’s name is believed to be a pseudonym used by the President, Abedin exclaimed, ‘How is this not classified?’ Abedin then expressed her amazement at the President’s use of a pseudonym and asked if she could have a copy of the email,” investigators wrote.
Abedin also told agents that the White House was notified when Clinton changed her primary email address, so that the president’s protected server would not reject emails from his secretary of State. The White House has previously said that while Obama was aware of Clinton’s private email address, he did not know the extent to which she used it.
In many of the documents, the name of the interviewee has been redacted. Several of the interviews with blocked-out names were with technicians at the Colorado-based firm that managed Clinton’s server. Technicians at the Denver firm, Platte River Networks, have become a flashpoint in congressional investigations into deletions from the server that were revealed in the FBI’s first report of the probe.
Two of those employees, Paul Combetta and Bill Thornton, were given some form of immunity from the Department of Justice for cooperating.
According to the notes, the engineer who deleted an archive of Clinton’s old emails using a software known as BleachBit told investigators that he did so “of his own accord based on his normal practices as an engineer.”
BleachBit is designed to prevent recovery of deleted items. The deletion of the archive occurred after the Benghazi Committee had issued a subpoena for documents related to the 2012 attack on the Libyan outpost. The deleted files have drawn fire from Republicans who suspect Clinton may have had a role in the destruction of the documents.
Previous reporting from The New York Times has identified the technician who deleted the archive as Combetta.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump quickly seized on an exchange in the same interview, in which the technician told investigators that an email reference to a “Hilary [sic] coverup [sic] operation” was a joke.
“The fact an IT staffer maintaining Clinton’s secret server called a new retention policy designed to delete emails after 60 days a ‘Hillary coverup operation’ suggests there was a concerted effort to systematically destroy potentially incriminating information,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement. The interviewee told investigators that the comment was likely a reference a December 2014 order from Mills that any emails older than 60 days should be deleted.
According to the first batch of notes the FBI released earlier this month, Mills told investigators Clinton had decided she no longer needed access to the older emails.
But the technician apparently forgot the request and didn’t comply until after the House Benghazi Committee had issued a subpoena and ordered that all records relating to the 2012 attacks be preserved.
The timing has led some Republicans to suggest that Clinton herself may have ordered the destruction, and Republican lawmakers have been calling for the agency to release the interviews with Abedin, Mills and Sullivan.
Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has issued a criminal referral to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, asking him to investigate “whether Secretary Clinton or her employees and contractors violated statutes that prohibit destruction of records, obstruction of congressional inquiries, and concealment or cover up of evidence material to a congressional investigation.”
The new documents also offer more details about the process by which Clinton’s attorneys decided which emails to turn over to the Department of State in 2014.
In her interview with agents, Mills detailed the process by which she and lawyer Heather Samuelson sifted through Clinton’s emails to determine which were personal, and which were work-related.
Mills and Samuelson searched through Clinton’s emails for .gov email addresses, relevant keywords and the names of government officials, according to her interview.
The review took several months at Mills’s Chevy Chase, Md., office. Samuelson used her own computer and when she was unsure of how to proceed, she would print the email in question and ask for advice from Mills. Emails that included a mix of work-related and personal content were treated as work-related, Mills said.
Investigators probed the laptops Mills and Samuelson used to conduct the review, and the DOJ offered both a narrow immunity deal protecting them from prosecution for anything found on the devices, House lawmakers revealed Friday morning.
Also included in the documents is the summary of the bureau’s interview with the hacker Marcel Lazar, alias Guccifer. Lazar exposed Clinton’s personal domain name when he hacked the emails of former secretary of State Colin Powell.
In the interview with the FBI, Lazar claimed it only took him 20 minutes to infiltrate Powell’s account. He also admitted to having lied to Fox News about hacking Clinton’s account.
The FBI interviewed Powell, but the summary of the questioning is short.
Speculation about Powell’s role in Clinton’s decision to use a personal server was inflamed after a 2009 email came to light showing him giving Clinton a detailed explanation of how he got around some of the State Department’s security measures.
According to the summary released Friday, Powell told investigators that he advised Clinton to resist restrictions that would inhibit her ability to communicate.
He also expressed concerns that the “current environment” will hamper government efficiency by discouraging open communication and the use of email.
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